Indonesia is the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas producer, with 60-85% of its emissions stemming from deforestation. It has pledged to reduce its emissions by 29% on its own and, with international support, by 41% by 2030. Reaching this target depends on public engagement in green growth issues and effective governance of its forests and natural resources, as well as managing vested political and palm oil interests.
BBC Media Action used media to reach and inspire citizens, particularly urban youth, to take action on issues of deforestation and green growth. A 2020 survey undertaken among over 2000 urban youth by BBC Media Action showed that – while they are aware of the issues affecting forests and seek practical solutions – concepts such as ‘deforestation’ and ‘forests’ seem remote to them, and do not generate a sense of urgency.
With funding from the Norwegian Development Cooperation Agency (NORAD), BBC Media Action co-produced a TV drama in 2019 entitled ‘Our Story’ (#CeritaKita). There was also a companion social media discussion series ‘Chatter – Our Story’ (Ngobrolin CeritaKita) and a social media brand called Our Action (AksiKi-ta). BBC Media Action started by increasing awareness and knowledge on key issues in order to build engagement and confidence. The next step was to show young people how to take action individually and encourage them to take part in civic and policy debate on environmental issues.
The project achieved a strong media reach, with 24.5 million people (equivalent to 17% of those aged 15 or older living in target areas of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan) viewing the TV show and social media content. The project’s brands reached 35 million people, with over 10 million who had not watched the outputs becoming aware of them. This suggested high media visibility and a capacity to generate debate.
The project was evaluated by Columbia University via a randomised control trial to clarify whether exposure to the project content impacted public attitudes and behaviour. This confirmed that such exposure did indeed increase understanding of the impact of deforestation on the country and prompted people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. People who watched the drama were more knowledgeable and more likely to share environmental content with those in the unexposed control group. For example, 65% of people could name actions they had taken as a result of viewing project content, including searching for more information on managing household waste (mentioned by 54%).
Messages were communicated by framing the issue of climate change through the lens of pride in the country’s natural beauty and resources through short, engaging one-minute videos.
The issue of climate change has been made more tangible through using rarely discussed but everyday
problems as entry points, such as dealing with unsorted waste and government policies on toll roads.
Strong Reach and Impact
The project showed that it is possible to create engaging and financially sustainable media content around climate issues and green growth. However, to do so is challenging and requires early-stage investment and support. The TV drama #CeritaKita reached 13% of the targeted population. A social impact drama is a key vehicle for generating awareness and creating engagement on environmental issues. As well as achieving strong reach and engagement, the programming increased knowledge, encouraged individual action to protect the environment and provoked discussions on environmental issues. Leveraging drama formats, engaging brands and broadcast partnerships can help increase youth awareness and engagement in environmental issues.
Young people who had engaged with broader governance issues were not primed to engage on governance around green growth and climate change. This required a more gradual approach to helping them see the relevance of these issues and encouraging them to take individual actions as a gateway to interest in governance around these issues. The evaluation study showed young urban Indonesians preferred to fully understand and apply new knowledge before feeling comfortable talking to others about it.
Research also indicated that the project benefits from focusing on social drivers such as positive peer pressure. A route to engaging people is to break down climate issues into topics that are more relatable for young people, such as showing how they could contribute through recycling clothes, reducing plastic use or by holding leaders more to account.
Role of media in addressing environment and climate issues
Traditional media platforms such as TV are the best route to achieve
large-scale reach and to influence young people’s reference networks in Indonesia. Some 87% of survey respondents felt that the Indonesian media provided poor coverage and little space for people to discuss environmental issues. Our research showed that exposure to #CeritaKita content created greater support (61%) for media coverage of climate and environmental issues than among our control group (52%). It also showed that 75% of those who were not taking action didn’t feel they had enough information about the issue, while 44% were not sufficiently interested. Therefore programming presenting information and building awareness and engagement amongst audiences with little knowledge of environmental issues has huge potential.
Make content specific, emotionally engaging and relevant
The topics of climate change, green growth and deforestation are
vast and potentially hard for audiences to connect with. Programming engaged viewers by showing them solutions in a way that resonated with their lives, and that were clearly useful and sustainable. Emotional engagement in the drama was a key factor in how likely people were to report feeling informed about the environment and factors affecting it. Such engagement is driven by storylines that reflect young people’s realities and characters that they can easily relate to.
Regular social media monitoring vital for adaptive programming
Research was undertaken with social media users to understand young people’s platforms of choice. These changed over time; engagement via Facebook and Twitter was high in 2020, but dropped off in 2021. The project adjusted to rapid changes in young people’s social media habits and started to focus almost entirely on Instagram (64,500 followers), and later also deployed YouTube Shorts to good effect (96,500 subscribers).
Influence risk perception and increase perceived relevance and immediacy of deforestation
The literature on risk perception states that people are more likely to perceive risks threatening others – particularly distant others – and less likely to see these risks threatening themselves. On the potential for deforestation to harm Indonesian people, we found that CeritaKita modestly increased viewers’ likelihood of acknowledging the risks that climate change potentially poses to their fellow citizens – yet this difference was not statistically significant. Overall, whilst those exposed did understand the link between deforestation and floods, there is more work to be done to highlight how deforestation can have a direct impact on the lives of young Indonesians in order to drive them to action.